Today, we celebrate the 25th anniversary of one of our Principals, Mike Mulhern. In addition to supporting dozens of end clients over his tenure, Mike bridged the gap between our consulting and software departments and guided the development of Applaud over the years. In our latest Premier ProFiles feature, Mike shares his experiences and insights.

Q:     Mike, what brought you to Premier? 

A:     This was my first real job out of college. I graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1998 with a degree in Civil Engineering … but that wasn’t my passion. I had no idea what I wanted to do with myself when I grew up and suddenly, I was out of time to figure it out. Computers and programming, and optimization of anything were always hobbies. I love building things.

After moving to Chicago upon graduation, I picked up a newspaper and sent out resumes to ten companies. Premier responded! I didn’t make the connection until recently, but this is kind of prophetic. I had a summer internship at the Illinois Department of Nuclear Safety during which I assisted one of the engineers in analyzing some data from a radiation detector. We parsed the data with QBasic and then fed it into a program called PSI Plot. PSI Plot was outrageously slow, so I moved the installation to a RAM drive making the analysis possible. Little did I know I’d spend 20 years parsing, reformatting, and analyzing data in addition to figuring out how to make things go faster.

Q:     How has your role evolved over time since you’ve been here? 

A:     When I started, I was your typical entry level Associate Consultant learning Applaud wondering what I was getting into. My first projects involved updating systems for Y2K, then it was maintenance and development of HR benefits systems followed by a full blown data migration. 

The first 2-3 years carried a steep learning curve, but soon I was leading projects. By about 2007 I was delivering data migration projects for clients with no one in the office really even aware of what I was doing day-to-day. The autonomy was great, and I got to work with and learn from some really fantastic consultants with very different backgrounds outside of Premier. I was also very interested in the Applaud software and knowing exactly what it was doing. That led to greater involvement with the software team and some great collaborations on features. Eventually, I even got the privilege of managing the software team, which was one of the more rewarding things I’ve done here.  

In parallel to all of that was IT. When I started, there was really no one doing anything IT related, so I picked it up as a side task. We had 2 servers and a bunch of desktop machines. About 19 years in, it became more than a full-time job managing IT policies, infrastructure, services, inventory, and information security. Shout outs to Don Brown and Jonathan Garcia for helping to keep me sane.

Q:     What are your goals for the next few months/years? 

A:     Premier is primed for expansion right now and looking to expand our international footprint. I need to elevate our IT support structure to accommodate that growth and ensure compliance. We’re also targeting some automations to eliminate some of our manual processes allowing us to better scale. Beyond that, there’s some “continual improvement” goals on a number of fronts, including security and information security awareness. 

Q:     What is your favorite part of working at Premier? 

A:     I really enjoy the variety of things I get to do here, the continual influx of problems to solve and the freedom to approach them in my own way. I’m not a person who could do the same thing every day or follow someone else’s script. I need to be mentally engaged, figuring something out, and producing something that I feel is valued by others. 
One day I’m writing a script to interact with a web service. The next day I’m troubleshooting a software problem. After that I’m developing security training and writing an IT policy. The next day I’m collaborating on a new software feature or teaching a consultant how to do something that I did 10-15 years ago. I’m always eager to learn something new, to figure out how to make something work, or to create something. The variety keeps it interesting. 

Q:     What piece of advice would you give to your younger self? 

A:     Buy and hold, Nvidia, Google, Apple, and Microsoft. Seriously, there are 2 things that immediately come to mind. 

The first would be to “Ask more questions”. In general, everyone is afraid to look dumb by asking the wrong question, but if you don’t ask, you won’t ever know. If you ask a lot of questions and strive to understand a client’s problem, you can often produce a better solution than what you were originally asked for and deliver it faster with less re-work. Everyone wins!

The second would be to “Underreact” to adversity. Adversity in this case being either seemingly ridiculous/misguided requests or attacks from others. This is something I learned from our founder Jim Hempleman, that I’m admittedly not always good at. It’s usually better to listen, express concerns about something you disagree with, and then later come back with a well thought out response than it is to come out swinging or walk back a knee jerk reaction. While there are times when need to speak out loudly, that person who hated you may end up your friend once you prove that you have the same interests at heart. 

Q:     If you could have any superpower, what would it be? 

A:     I would like to a be human lie detector. Life would be a lot more fun if you knew who was being honest. 

Q:     What’s the last song you listened to? 

A:     “Other Side of the Rainbow” by Extreme. Extreme was popular in the late 80s/early 90s and kind of fell off my radar after that. Last year, they put out an album called “Six” which is really good.  The songs are great but cross some genre boundaries. “Other side of the Rainbow” is a very catchy ballad that will stick in your head. 

Q:     What, if anything, are you currently binge-watching? Or reading? 

A:     Over the last few years, I have binge re-watched all the different Star Trek series, Babylon 5, the Stargates, Firefly, and everything Star Wars related. I’m a sci-fi junkie. I’m currently watching “The Witcher” on Netflix which is a departure from the theme but very good! 

Thanks for chatting with us Mike, and congratulations on 25 years at Premier. We are so glad you are part of our team!